The lecture halls are full and the quarter is well underway. At this time of year, I am reminded of the excitement and possibilities each new class brings.

This is the first in a series of messages I intend to share with the campus community throughout the year. Chancellor Blumenthal - who also plans to share regular campus messages - and I are committed to broadening and strengthening our communications. Improved understanding of our priorities, opportunities, and challenges will enrich our collective success as a campus.

To this end, my website is being redesigned and will offer an avenue for me to talk with you about the budget, academic planning, administrative decisions, and general topics related to the work of my office (http://www.ucsc.edu/administration/evc/). I am actively seeking opportunities to listen more often and more effectively. You can email my office at cpevc@ucsc.edu. I welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions.

This is a year of great promise for our university. This fall UCSC welcomed approximately 4,800 new students to campus; about 3,900 of these are first-year students. In addition to being one of our most academically strong and talented frosh cohorts, this is the most ethnically diverse class of new students in UCSC's history. One-third of these students are the first from their families to attend a four-year university.

We welcome these students to a place where they will live and learn and leave prepared to be engaged global citizens. UCSC is home to world-class researchers, inspiring teachers, and committed staff members who care deeply about students and their research pursuits. This is something we can all be very proud of.

This is also a year of great challenges - today's students face enormous challenges as a generation: threats to the environment, cultural and religious conflict, and the need for new energy sources, to name a few. Our students (and our entire community) have been witnesses to a historic national election campaign, bringing sharper focus to tensions that arise from being a part of a growing and diverse global community. And, of course, we face economic conditions not seen since the late 1920s.

How will we nurture our promise as a world-class teaching and research university, and ensure that our students get the best of what we have to offer?

Those of you who know me well, know that I value plain speaking. We face some rough times and difficult choices. It may be several years before the economy meaningfully stabilizes and rebounds. To truly flourish in these times, we will need to hold fast to our values, be clear about our priorities, and take collective responsibility for our future through creative problem solving. I'm confident that, working in concert, we will weather these times.

There is much work ahead. Over the next few months, the work of my office will be focused in a few key areas:

First, I am certain many of you have questions on the budget news and how that will impact your lives and your work. While many key questions at this point have no clear answers, I promise to share what we know when we know it. My office will provide an update next week summarizing what we know about 2008-09 UC budget, expected mid-year actions, and what that means for the campus.

As a campus, we have spent a significant amount of effort over the last several years in academic planning, resulting in a Strategic Academic Plan: http://planning.ucsc.edu/acadplan/docs/AcadPlan.Feb08.pdf. This plan reflects the work and scholarly aspirations of the faculty and our academic departments. It identifies areas of disciplinary strength and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Keeping us on a path to achieve those aspirations is my top priority. As we reduce expenses in some areas, we will also need to continue investment in others. The academic plan can help guide those near-term investments and allow us to focus on programs for which there is growing societal need and potential for academic excellence.

We have also been planning the launch of a comprehensive fund-raising campaign. Diversifying and growing our non-state funding base is essential to our long-term success. Increasing philanthropy to support student scholarships, endowed chairs, and programmatic aspirations is critical. You will be hearing more about the campaign in coming months.

It is in challenging times that our work, our educational mission, becomes even more essential. I am grateful for the dedication of our faculty and staff and the work that each of you does on a daily basis to keep us moving ahead. I thank you for your support, your good counsel, and your ongoing commitment to UCSC.